As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods
Jessica and her husband John are childfree “by chance and then choice(?),” the parenthetical question mark indicating her struggle to make peace with that word: choice. After six of years of trying to get pregnant, they tried IVF, “but it failed,” she says. “We were told with my diminished ovarian reserve there was really no chance of IVF working without an egg donor.” It was at that point they decided not to pursue any more fertility treatments or adoption.
What a heartbreaking “choice”—one so many of us can relate to.
Today, Jessica is traveling through the acceptance phase of her journey, working on embracing her family of two, and hoping “to feel joyful again.” That’s our hope for her too.
Here’s more of her story.
LWB: Briefly describe your dream of motherhood:
Jessica: I always pictured a little boy, who looks just like John, looking up at me with his sweet face. I had names picked out for our two girls, but we never could decide on a name for our boy. I prayed, often, for the wisdom to teach our girls to truly know their value, because so many girls grow into women not realizing how much they are worth. I couldn’t wait to see John as a dad, interacting with our kids, with his sweet, gentle spirit.
LWB: What was the turning point for you?
Jessica: After our failed IVF, I was grieving. I did not understand all of the emotions I was having. I spent a lot of time talking and thinking about what was next and finally realized I was simply tired. I was tired of our life being on hold, of the emotional roller coaster each month, of feeling isolated and alone. I decided to go to an infertility support group to see if it could help me process everything. In that meeting, while each person talked about where they were on their journey to have a child, I realized I was done. Our life had been on hold for two-thirds of our marriage, waiting to get pregnant. I was barely making it out of bed half of the time. When it came to be my turn, I said how I was feeling, and the leader said she knew a couple who had chosen not to pursue any more fertility treatments nor to adopt. She said they were living “childfree” and living it well. That put all of the pieces in place for me. I had not heard anyone ever talk about choosing that path. It took several weeks for me to process this thought. I met with the lady of the couple to talk about her journey. I googled to see if I could find other women who had also chosen this path. (I am so grateful for all the woman who share their stories online!) John and I talked about it and finally decided that we also wanted to start accepting our life without kids. It was such a mixture of sadness and relief to finally make that decision!
LWB: What’s the hardest part for you about not having children?
Jessica: Finding a purpose in this world as a woman without kids. Also not being able to see my mom and dad with our kids.
LWB: What is the best advice you’d offer someone else like you?
Jessica: You are not alone, even if it feels like it. It is hard to find someone who truly understands the emotions that you are having, but it is worth trying to find that someone who has gone through a similar struggle. And only you can say how far and how long you go trying to have a baby, even though most people will have an opinion on it.
LWB: How has LWB helped you on your journey?
Jessica: I bought Lisa’s book Life Without Baby: Surviving and Thriving When Motherhood Doesn’t Happen when it came out. The timing was perfect, as I had really just come to the decision to accept our life without kids. Probably the main thing I got out of it right away was how much of what I was feeling was normal and okay. I felt a lot of pressure to go to both my sisters-in-law’s baby showers and to go to the hospital when my niece and nephew were born. This was right after our failed IVF. It was tough, so tough. Lisa talks about preparing for social events in her book, which helped me realize that it is okay to have good days and bad days. It is okay to opt out of a family event or a social event if I think it could be a trigger. And the biggest one was about Mother’s Day. It was so freeing to take control and have a plan to honor my mom while navigating around the day. Reading the book also confirmed to me that I was on the right path.
The LWB blog is great too. I am very thankful that something is posted pretty much every day, because it reminds me I am not alone!
In her email to me, Jessica wrote, “Answering these questions was helpful in reflecting on our journey, where we’ve been, and where we might be going.” I would love for you to experience the healing that can come from sharing your story with all of us at LWB. If you feel ready, go to the Our Stories page to get more information and the questionnaire.
If you’re not quite ready for this step, I encourage you to check out the Community Forums and other Our Stories, where you will find understanding and support from LWB readers who have traveled paths similar to yours.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.